Higher Education Quick Takes

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Monday, March 29, 2010 - 3:00am

President Obama on Saturday announced that he was making recess appointments of 15 of his nominees whose confirmations have been blocked by Senate Republicans' refusal to allow votes on them -- and two appointees in particular could lead to a major change for higher education. Those appointees -- Craig Becker and Mark Pearce -- will restore a quorum to the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB has lacked a quorum throughout the Obama administration, leading to legal challenges to its right to decide cases. One of the major goals for academic labor for the Obama administration was to see a reversal of the 2004 NLRB decision that effectively shut down the unionization of graduate student teaching assistants at private universities. But labor groups have hesitated to bring a challenge to the ruling while the NLRB lacked a quorum. The leaders of private universities generally oppose unionization of graduate students.

Monday, March 29, 2010 - 3:00am

The Educational Credit Management Corporation, a guarantor of federal student loans, announced Friday that a "portable media" device recently stolen had personally identifiable information -- including names, addresses, dates of birth and Social Security numbers -- on 3.3 million borrowers, co-signers and others. The theft occurred during the weekend of March 20-21 and was discovered by ECMC on the afternoon of Sunday, March 21. Officials said that they informed law enforcement immediately and issued Friday's announcement as soon as they had clearance to do so by those investigating the theft. ECMC guarantees loans for students in Minnesota, Virginia and Oregon, and also contracts with the U.S. Education Department to provide services when borrowers have entered into bankruptcy.

Monday, March 29, 2010 - 3:00am

What's it like being John Yoo, the one-time Bush administration official whose memos are widely seen as endorsing torture and who is now back teaching law (to the dismay of activists who want him ousted) at the University of California at Berkeley? He told the Los Angeles Times he relishes his role and isn't intimidated by the many at the university who want him gone, or who defend his right to be there while finding his ideas offensive. "I think of myself as being West Berlin during the Cold War, a shining beacon of capitalism and democracy surrounded by a sea of Marxism," Yoo told the Times. He said he views Berkeley as "a natural history museum of the 1960s," adding: "It's like looking at the panoramic displays of troglodytes sitting around the campfire with their clubs. Here, it's tie-dye and marijuana. It's just like the 1960s, with the Vietnam War still to protest."

Monday, March 29, 2010 - 3:00am

The University of Nebraska at Omaha is home to the Center for Afghanistan Studies, an academic center created in the 1970s, before Afghanistan was a hot spot in global conflict. As a result, the center's officials became much-quoted and the center has attracted numerous grants for its work as the country has become key to U.S. foreign policy. An article in the Los Angeles Times notes that while the attention and funds have pleased the university, many critics question whether the center is too close to federal agencies and not sufficiently scholarly.

Monday, March 29, 2010 - 3:00am

Some Maryland legislators are threatening to block funds for the University of Maryland because its law clinic is involved in environmental suits against the poultry industry, The Baltimore Sun reported. The dispute is the latest nationally in which legal clinics run by law schools -- generally only a blip in the total budgets of public universities -- become the subject of major legislative debates because they help those suing powerful groups.

Monday, March 29, 2010 - 3:00am

An Associated Press profile examines the work of Jonathan Jansen, the first black rector of the University of the Free State. The South African institution is integrated in total enrollments, but black and white students live separately -- a tradition Jansen is pushing to change. Much of the focus is on residences, which the article describes as something similar to fraternities and sororities, with many traditions and hazing. Jansen forced one of the residences to stop forcing new students to bow before a statue of its founder -- a practice black students found troubling.

Friday, March 26, 2010 - 3:00am

A new study has found that, contrary to conventional wisdom, binge drinking the night before a major test may not affect performance. Scholars at Boston University and Brown University tested 193 university students, ages 21 to 24, from the Boston area. Volunteer participants received either regular beer or nonalcoholic beer. The morning after, participants were given the practice versions of the Graduate Record Examination, as well as a mock quiz on an academic lecture they attended the previous afternoon. The study found that participants scored no differently on the GREs, or on the quizzes, whether they had consumed alcoholic or nonalcoholic beer.

Friday, March 26, 2010 - 3:00am

After months of delay, Congress, in one intense day that included more partisan spats and parliamentary maneuvering, passed budget legislation that included a $40 billion-plus investment in colleges and their students. The Senate approved a measure that would both make a series of "fixes" to the health care legislation that President Obama signed into law Wednesday and revamp the federal student loan programs.

Friday, March 26, 2010 - 3:00am

There may be much debate over what SAT scores really signify, but new research suggests that they yield women a lot of money if they are willing to donate their eggs. The Boston Globe reported on a new study that found -- analyzing the ads in student newspapers -- that an increase of 100 points in a woman's score resulted in an average increase of $2,350 in offers to buy her eggs.

Friday, March 26, 2010 - 3:00am

The growth of diagnoses of learning disabilities is raising issues about fairness and some discomfort among faculty members, but these questions get too little attention, according to a report issued Thursday by the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. The report is a mix of national data along with a focus on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. And the report notes that while the growing diagnoses may in part relate to earlier detection, there has also been a growth in a testing industry that caters to wealthy families who want a diagnosis so their children can gain extra time on key tests. James Kessler, director of disability services at Chapel Hill, said that the report served a valuable purpose in bringing attention to these issues. But he said that, in addition to faculty members who worry about whether some students are taking advantage of a diagnosis, there are many professors who understand learning disabilities and see the enhanced services as helping students. "We have faculty who call us and say 'I have this young woman who in discussion gets the course, but on a test she doesn't. Can I send her over and see what's up?' "

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